WILDLIFE: Wild traffic stopper – After trains, elephant targets national highway

WILDLIFE: Wild traffic stopper – After trains, elephant targets national highway – what, no time to enjoy the free Safari, to stop and take yet more pictures ?!! Or better yet, pray to Lord Ganesha or traffic more important ?!!

The elephant which came out of Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary stands on NH31 on Wednesday - what a fortunate Darshan ?!! (Biplab Basak)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Siliguri, Aug. 18: An elephant came out of a wildlife sanctuary this morning and disrupted traffic on NH31 for 45 minutes, less than 24 hours after another one had blocked railways tracks at Gulma.

The makna (a male without tusks) walked out of the Chapramari forest around 9.30am and blocked traffic between Chulsa and Nagrakata.

“I was riding a motorbike to Malbazar when I saw the elephant standing beside the highway. Suddenly, it stepped on the road and stopped. I immediately slammed the brake,” said Dambar Bhujel, a resident of Nagrakata.

“As the animal showed no signs of moving, I took a U-turn and went few metres back to stop other vehicles which had been approaching the spot,” he added.

The elephant, Bhujel said, was standing in the middle of the highway near a culvert over a stream.

“Sometimes, it moved to the sides and pulled down tree branches and devoured them. There was no other option but to wait for the animal to return to the jungle,” he said.

Rafiqul Islam, a resident of Malda, was going to Nagrakata from Malbazar on a bus. He got down at Khunia More —a kilometre from the spot where the elephant “raised the blockade” — and went to the forest beat office.

“Vehicles had lined up at either end of the spot. I took no risk and disembarked from the bus to go to the forest beat office,” said Islam. “I had heard about elephants but have never seen a wild one and preferred to stay with foresters.”

Foresters from Khunia range under Gorumara National Park rushed to the spot to ensure that the makna did not cause any harm to people or damage to the vehicles. After around 45 minutes, the animal moved back to the forest. Khunia is 65km from Siliguri.

Local sources said around 200 vehicles had been left stranded on the highway because of the elephant.

Sumita Ghatak, the divisional forest officer (wildlife II), said: “The elephant was alone and somehow came out of the forest in the morning, disrupting the traffic. After about 45 minutes, it returned to the forest. Our men had been to the spot but no untoward incident happened,’ he said.

Another makna which was suspected to be on mast blocked railway tracks near Gulma station in Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary two times yesterday. It pounded the engine of a passenger train with the trunk in the morning and halted a long-distance express train in the afternoon. On both occasions, the foresters had to drive it out of the tracks.

“After yesterday’s incident, we had kept tabs on that elephant. It seems to have entered the core areas and was not spotted near the tracks today,” said Tapas Das, the divisional forest officer (wildlife I).

Plan to stop track deaths – spend and waste yet more money, how absurd – just slow down the bloody trains and build sky rails for the future ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Alipurduar, Aug. 18: The railways will soon construct guard walls and underpasses and erect fences to avert the deaths of animals on the tracks passing through forests in the Dooars. (soon to lie in ruins within a year with uneducated animals or planners ?!!)

Nineteen elephants, one leopard and four bison have been mowed down by trains on Alipurduar Junction-Siliguri section since January 2007.

Keshab Chandra, the general manager of Northeast Frontier Railway, today said the project had been prepared on the instruction of railway minister Mamata Banerjee. (Bengal’s answer to Laloo Prasad, or what ?!!)

“Railway engineers in consultation with forest officers have prepared a project to put in place precautionary measures to avoid collisions between trains and animals. We will construct guard walls and erect fences in the spots where animals are likely to cross the tracks. There will be underpasses also for the animals’ movement,” said Chandra.

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